“I was told that America is the land of dreams,” said Neha Jain on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. She went on to tell a story of resilience and growth that resonated with her fellow graduates at Northeastern’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony.
Jain told her classmates that she had traveled to Northeastern from a small town near Delhi because the United States was, she said, “the land of infinite opportunities and a place where I can be whoever I want to be.”
“The first few days of freshmen year were full of self-doubt and anxiety, where I constantly questioned myself if I will ever make it, where the thought of being on co-op gave me chills as I did not even have a resume or any experience in terms of working,” said Jain, who earned her degree in business administration in December 2020. “I didn’t know how will I ever fit in with people from cultures I have never even heard of—and how will I ever survive the crazy snow days that everyone kept warning me of.
“But here I am,” said Jain, who completed two “amazing” co-ops, studied abroad in Copenhagen, worked multiple different on-campus jobs and mentored multiple students at Northeastern.
Since January, Jain has been working in Dubai as a client services associate for AlphaSights, an information services company. She had made the long journey back to Boston to participate in this Commencement ceremony, which could not be taken for granted, not after the isolating year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew so little of the world when I initially joined Northeastern,” Jain said. “I learned how to love, how to feel joy, how to set goals, and how to foster a sense of community, all here at Northeastern.
“I will truly miss and cherish my time here, whether it was the strolls at the Fence, or the 2 a.m. burritos from Amelias, the unending group meetings at Curry to the free Ben & Jerry’s ice creams in summer,” Jain said. “The painful walk to the classroom in snowstorms, to the concerts at afterHOURS. The Bello Bello sandwich from Rebecca’s to the midnight breakfast at Steast [Stetson East].
The theme of transformation also ran through the speech by Nathan Hostert at the undergraduate ceremony on Saturday morning. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, noted Hostert, his generation had already grown accustomed to change.
“We have revolted against so many of the ideas that we grew up with, becoming more comfortable talking about things like mental health, sexuality, and privilege,” said Hostert, who came to Northeastern from Wichita, Kan., and was graduating with a bachelor’s in political science. “We have already accepted that we’ll have to spend our whole lives fighting a different once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis: climate change.”
Hostert asked his fellow graduates to think back to who they were when they first arrived at Northeastern.
“For me, that person was an insecure gay kid who stayed in the closet all throughout high school in a socially conservative community in Kansas, and who didn’t know if he would ever find meaning in life,” Hostert said. “And now think about everything you’ve accomplished at Northeastern, and how that’s shaped who you are today. For me, that person is a less insecure gay kid, who’s co-oped at the city, state, and federal levels of government, and who loves biking to parks and dancing with friends.”
He spoke of the trauma caused by the pandemic, and all the ways that he and his classmates have been forced to learn and grow in order to deal with the societal issues that their generation have inherited.
“What an opportunity we have then to go out and fix those problems that are so deeply ingrained in our policies, in our communities, our industries and also in ourselves,” Hostert said. “Whether you are a computer scientist or a life scientist, an artist or an engineer, a social worker or a small-business owner, this is our chance. We have got to go fix this. And quite honestly I can’t think of a better group of people to do it.
“So let’s take all of our Northeastern experiences, along with the network of peers and mentors and friends that we have made here, and let’s go make the world a better place,” concluded Hostert. “Let’s make a new normal that we can all be proud of.”